The discovery of an abandoned ship, Tamaya 1, off the coast of Robertsport, Cape Mount County, two days before it was officially noticed by the Liberian government has raised concerns over the preparedness of Liberia’s security sector in the wake of the UNMIL drawdown.
In response to reporters, police spokesman Sam Collins said the 64 meter long Tamaya 1 is an oil tanker of unknown origin – though unconfirmed reports said it may either be sailing under the Nigerian or Panamanian flag.
Collins admitted to reporters that security personnel in the area lacked knowledge abotu the unfolding event; but, however, did their job by preventing people from getting closer to the ship.
“Which raises the question: how could the security officers not know what was unfolding?” a Robertsport resident asked the Daily Observer. “That it took over two days before they knew about the ship’s presence, is troubling.”
Residents who spoke to the Daily Observer said it was surprising that government security personnel did not take control of the situation until the night of Wednesday, May 4, when LNP Police Support Unit (PSU) officers from Sinje started arriving in Robertsport.
“What about the Coast Guard officers whose duty is to know about ships that enter Liberian territorial waters?” a resident asked. “This is all the more worrisome for some of us – that our security apparatus should be ready at all times and not be sleeping after something huge has happened.”
A source at the National Port Authority (NPA) told the Daily Observer that the NPA was not aware of the situation because “Robertsport does not have a seaport.”
“Our best bet is that the vessel’s owner might have gone broke and had no money to pay crew members; and therefore, the crew abandoned the ship,” he said.
The negative implication, he said, is to question the role of the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA), the Coast Guard and Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN), adding that “they should be questioned on how the ship entered Liberia’s territorial waters and close to Robertsport without their knowledge.”
The Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA) would not comment on the ship’s presence in Liberia.
Collins, meanwhile, said PSU officers are working along with the Coast Guard, LMA and BIN to unravel the mystery surrounding the abandoned ship.